Stop stigmatising sufferers – Medical experts charge as world marks Tuberculosis Day

As the world marks 2024 World Tuberculosis Day on Sunday, a Pulmonologist, Dr Oluwaseun Ololade, has called on Nigerians to stop stigmatising Tuberculosis sufferers, as the ailment is not as highly contagious as thought.

A pulmonologist is a doctor who specialises in lung conditions. He or she diagnoses and treats diseases of the respiratory system.

Dr Ololade told the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Ibadan on Sunday that it would take at least two weeks of close exposure to a tuberculosis sufferer for one to be infected.

Ololade is a Senior Registrar at the Pulmonology Unit of the University College Hospital (UCH), Ibadan.

He listed poor nutrition, low socio-economic status, overcrowding,  prison congestion, and depressed immunity status as possible causative agents of tuberculosis.

“For us to overcome this scourge and eradicate tuberculosis faster, we must stop the stigma around sufferers, give them medical care, good food, appropriate treatment, and watch them live their lives.

“Ending tuberculosis is achievable in Nigeria. With increased advocacy to sensitise communities about the disease, Nigeria will go a long way in overcoming the scourge,’’ he said.

Dr. Ololade stressed that tuberculosis, a destructive chest infection, spreads when people are exposed to air droplets of those already infected over a long period and in an enclosed environment.

Tuberculosis destroys the lungs and leads to lots of debilitating illnesses afterward,’’ he said.

“Screening for tuberculosis is free for now.

“People must note that a cough lasting more than two weeks needs to be reported at a medical facility and the cough checked to be sure it is not tuberculosis,’’ he said.

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Another medical expert, Dr. Uthman Adedeji, of the Emergency Medicine Unit at the UCH, called on Nigerians to make concerted efforts toward the prevention and treatment of tuberculosis.

Adedeji urged governments and policymakers to make provision for the free treatment of people suffering from tuberculosis.

“Public awareness and advocacy should be intensified to prevent stigmatisation and to encourage early presentation for testing, diagnosis, and treatment.

“Early treatment of people with tuberculosis and vaccination for vulnerable groups are equally important.

“People should seek medical attention if they have a prolonged cough or fever or unexplained weight loss, as early treatment of tuberculosis can help to stop its spread and improve their chances of recovery.

“Get tested for tuberculosis if you are at increased risk, if you have HIV, or if you are in contact with people who have tuberculosis in your household or your workplace.

“Take a complete course of treatment if diagnosed or if you are at high risk,’’ Adedeji admonished.

He advised tuberculosis sufferers to practice good hygiene when coughing or sneezing, including avoiding contact with other people, wearing a mask, disposing of sputum, and using tissues properly.

“Worldwide, tuberculosis is the second leading infectious disease killer after COVID-19. It ranks above HIV and AIDS.

“A total of 1.3 million people died from tuberculosis in 2022, including 167,000 people living with HIV.

“Our dear country, Nigeria, is not left out of the campaign to end tuberculosis. With goodwill and a policy-driven agenda, tuberculosis can be combated,’’ he said.

Adedeji noted that people with latent tuberculosis would not feel sick and would not infect others, adding that only a small proportion of people who got infected with tuberculosis would show symptoms.

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He also noted that babies and children were at higher risk.

“Tuberculosis usually affects the lungs; it also affects the kidneys, brain, spine, and skin.

“Immediately after the symptoms are noticed, it is advisable not to put others at risk. Those who have the symptoms should go to medical facilities for testing and take full treatment if diagnosed as having tuberculosis.

“The essence of World Tuberculosis Day is to create public awareness about the infection and its consequences,’’ Adedeji stressed.

World Tuberculosis Day is marked annually on March 24. The theme for the 2024 celebration is “Yes, we can end tuberculosis.’’ (NAN)

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